Nature Study Group 2


Dave Ficke (A)

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JANUARY 2022 ROUND

Title:    Swans

Goal:      I had an opportunity to go to Lodi, California - major flyway for migratory birds. Never been there so was hoping to see some birds - It was great for two days and then the Tulle fog came in and you could not see more than 6 feet.
I like this one because of the lighting (sunset) and the reflection in the water. As Rick Sammon has shared, wings should be either up or down - got that

Equipment/Source:    
Nikon D850 with a 400mm lens and a 1.4 converter on a tripod, ISO 1400, F8 at 1/1000.
   
Technique:     
Sat on the side of the road with tripod and camera watching the birds fly in or take off - some flew away some across. Doing a lot of panning shots

Processing:   
Cropped and adjusted highlights, shadows, whites and blacks and sharpening

Score this image: YES


Comments/Scores (N, T, P, E, Total)
    Critique Image (only members of Study Group Two may critique this image)

 




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NOVEMBER 2021 ROUND
Title:    Strike on a Twig

Goal:   I was out at the San Jacinto Wildlife area and was photographing birds and this Strike landed near by and I got a few shots of him. Unfortunately there was no specific behavior that tells a story but non the less pleased with the photo.
 
Equipment/Source:   Nikon D850 with a 400mm lens and a 1.4 converter shot at 550mm at F5, 1/1000 second with ISO at 160 and using a tripod.  

Technique:    Sitting around watching the waterbirds - egrets fly in and out of a pond and this Strike flew into a tree and I took advantage of his arrival.

Processing:    Cropped, adjusted highlights and shadows and gave a bit more blue to the sky.

Score this image: YES

Comments/Scores (N, T, P, E, Total)

   Critique Image (only members of Study Group Two may critique this image)

Review by commentator Rick C.
I suspect you meant the title to be Shrike on a Twig. This is a nice portrait of the subject. As such, it would only be at the 2 level for nature story.

Focus basic detail look reasonable. In dealing with the 3/4 backlighting, you had I feel you have lost a little contrast and that is costing you some sharpness in the face. A little touch up with the sharpening tool over the facial area restores a nice clean crispness to the face and eye. The backlighting also leaves you fighting with controlling the highlights and shadow. The adjustments are understandable, but leave the highlights still on the hot side, particularly down on the underside of the tail, and the detail on the facial and head lacking contrast. Both can be improved with some selective editing, though the underside of the tail may remain and issue. It becomes a trade off on how much contrast you are willing to accept. For me, the technical rating is a 2.

The composition and framing is reasonable for the subject as shown. The twig leading up to the right corner does tend to lead the eye out of the image. The pictorial rating is a 3 for me.

N-2, T-2, P-3 = 7


PERSON WHO WROTE THE REVIEW: Bradshaw, Colin

NATURE REVIEW OF THE IMAGE: Nice shot and well handled as you say a bird on a stick with minimal story but I would be happy with one of these. dont think we get them in the UK.

TECHNICAL REVIEW OF THE IMAGE: The backs and whites have been well handled with detail throughout, subject is sharp I like the way the branch goes to the top corner, I would ;ice to see more light in the eye as it looks flat,

PICTORIAL REVIEW OF THE IMAGE: A nice image with good detail and exposure, well positioned in the frame although I would take a tad off of the left. as said before I would bring a bit more life in the eye.

NATURE SCORE: 2 - Nature story of average strength (portrait)

TECHNICAL SCORE: 3 - Excellent exposure, color balance and sharpness

PICTORIAL SCORE: 2 - Average composition and impact

Total score: 7



PERSON WHO WROTE THE REVIEW: Binney, Adrian
NATURE REVIEW OF THE IMAGE: This is a portrait as you state, so no nature story.
TECHNICAL REVIEW OF THE IMAGE: Your image is sharp with good feather detail brought out. The light direction casts a shadow across its face and I would tend to lighten the shadows slightly selectively to make the head/eye clearer.
PICTORIAL REVIEW OF THE IMAGE: A pleasing image with not much to retain interest
NATURE SCORE: 2 - Nature story of average strength (portrait)
TECHNICAL SCORE: 2 - Average exposure
PICTORIAL SCORE: 2 - Average composition and impact
Extra Point awarded: 0 - No extra point
Total score: 6

PERSON WHO WROTE THE REVIEW: Dandridge, Rick

NATURE REVIEW OF THE IMAGE: HI, Dick. This is a very nice portrait and you are right in being pleased. There are times when we nature photographers have to accept the subject as it is.
TECHNICAL REVIEW OF THE IMAGE: Your gear and settings worked well for you.
PICTORIAL REVIEW OF THE IMAGE: The Strike really stands out against that true blue sky. Good crop, good color and good texture. A strong catch light would create some impact. My guess is you didn’t have time or space to move to a more favorable position.
NATURE SCORE: 2 - Nature story of average strength (portrait)
TECHNICAL SCORE: 3 - Excellent exposure, color balance and sharpness
PICTORIAL SCORE: 2 - Average composition and impact
Total score: 7

PERSON WHO WROTE THE REVIEW: Ficke, Dave

NATURE REVIEW OF THE IMAGE: This is a good image of a beautiful bird. The angle of the photo gives the viewer a great perspective on the bill of this little predator.
TECHNICAL REVIEW OF THE IMAGE: The image is well exposed, showing definition in both the white and black feathers. You may want to lift the shadows a little more around the eye to give it a bit more definition.
PICTORIAL REVIEW OF THE IMAGE: Although this is a 'bird on a stick' image, the perspective is unique and the shape of the twig gives a strong structure to the image. I wonder what the image would look like with just a bit more space on the top (1/4" or so).
NATURE SCORE: 2 - Nature story of average strength (portrait)
TECHNICAL SCORE: 2 - Average exposure
PICTORIAL SCORE: 2 - Average composition and impact
Total score: 6

PERSON WHO WROTE THE REVIEW: Finocchio, Bruce

NATURE REVIEW OF THE IMAGE: Yes, essentially, this image is a portrait. Thus, by definition, the nature story element is low. However, I believe that portraits do tell a story, by clearly showing us the characteristics of each bird or animal. Sometimes they can reveal the personality of an individual member of species. Like humans, every animal has a personality, unique to the individual. Moreover, by catching the catch-light in its eye, you capture the spirit of the animal and the sacredness of life.
TECHNICAL REVIEW OF THE IMAGE: I think the exposure and sharpness are fine. I don’t know if I would darken the blue sky, maybe in this case, the shrike would stand out better with a light blue sky. Being the bird has some black feathers, a lighter blue sky color would not compete so much with the bird. Anything that focuses the mind away from the subject is a distraction, and I think here the deeply saturated blue hurts rather than supports the subject. All your other adjustments are realistic and enhance the subject. Just try a lighter blue sky and compare it to the darker version, and see if it is not more impactful and pleasing to the mind.
PICTORIAL REVIEW OF THE IMAGE: For a portrait, I like the over-the-shoulder look, it is a pleasant shape, sort of an “s”-curve. Since the bird is way above you, I would prefer if it was looking slightly down, then, your mind sees a circle and it is held within the image. Here its glaze viewed from below gives the feeling of looking out of the frame, and with the branch blocking the direction that the bird is looking. The composition is a bit confusing to the mind. As a result, the image lacks a degree of elegance and visual power. Just like a human model, posing is very important. I would wait for a better composition moment or choose another image, hopefully, you have many where the bird is looking the other way, and ideally you have one with that over-the-shoulder look that is so pleasing to the mind.
NATURE SCORE: 2 - Nature story of average strength (portrait)
TECHNICAL SCORE: 2 - Average exposure
PICTORIAL SCORE: 2 - Average composition and impact
Total score: 6

PERSON WHO WROTE THE REVIEW: Bhattacharyya, Suman

NATURE REVIEW OF THE IMAGE: Basically a portrait shot, sitting on a branch while observing around isn't much of a nature story. If you would have stayed a bit longer you might have caught a call made by the bird which would have been a good nature story
TECHNICAL REVIEW OF THE IMAGE: image is tack sharp although I find a slight highlight burn in the breast feathers which may be due to my monitor too but you need to check on its histogram
PICTORIAL REVIEW OF THE IMAGE: Instead of shooting the bird from below find a favourable position in which you may get a straight view which is always preferable
NATURE SCORE: 1 - Nature story minimal or contains unrelated hand of man
TECHNICAL SCORE: 3 - Excellent exposure, color balance and sharpness
PICTORIAL SCORE: 2 - Average composition and impact
Extra Point awarded: 0 - No extra point
Total score: 6










Dave Ficke joined the Mountain News in September of 2015 as a sports photographer, covering Rim of the World High School sports.  In 2017 he was asked to also write the sports articles to accompany his excellent photographs for the Mountain News.  This is his first professional job as a sports correspondent; additionally Dave has done other articles on human interest and the environment for The Mountain News.  

Dave graduated from Cal Poly Pomona with a BS in Biology, earned his California Secondary Teaching Credential and taught high school college prep Biology, Physics and Field Biology in Upland, CA. He led field trips to Yosemite National Park for his Field Biology classes for twenty-seven years.  Dave also earned a Masters in Environmental Education and is currently retired from a career that spanned 33 years, teaching high school through college.  

During his time in the field of Education Dave has variously been the coordinator for the California Regional Environmental Education Network (CREEC) for all of Riverside, Inyo, Mono and San Bernardino Counties for over 20 years; he was a Teacher Ambassador for Cal Recycle, presenting professional development curriculum the Education and the Environment Initiative (EEI) to educators throughout California for seven years.  Dave was appointed by California’s State Superintendent Tom Torlakson to help develop The California Blueprint for Environmental Education for the State of California.  

Dave has retired from rock climbing and rapids riding, but still loves to hike and take backpacking trips.  His informal avocation for photography developed into a second career for Dave; he currently shows and sells his landscape and wildlife prints at The Mountain Arts Gallery in Lake Arrowhead. He has won various awards for his photographs from The Orange County Fair, Inland Empire Professional Photographers, and the Redlands Camera Club where he was president for two years.

Dave, his wife Kathleen, also a retired teacher and guidance counselor, and their two dogs, Jordie a golden doodle, and Cedar, a golden retriever, love to travel in their fifth wheel RV for weeks at a time.  Dave’s love of the outdoors and his passion for landscape and wildlife photography complement his love for the environment.